Rights group backs motion to dismiss cases against detained rights defender in Laguna

The cases against 61-year-old human rights worker Nimfa Lanzanas are based on “utter fabrications, blatant lies, and planted evidence,” human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted, as the group backed their detained paralegal’s motion to dismiss the cases filed against her following her arrest during the Bloody Sunday raids throughout the Southern Tagalog region last March 7, which led to the killings of nine activists and the arrests of three others.

“We support the urgent and just call that these charges against our paralegal Nimfa Lanzanas be dismissed and that she should be released immediately. We assert that these against her and all those who were arrested during the Bloody Sunday raids are trumped-up, and that her arrest was arbitrary, trampled upon her rights, and a clear case of judicial harassment against a staunch and tireless human rights defender,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

In an omnibus motion filed yesterday, July 8, at the Laguna Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 37, Lanzanas’ legal counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers prayed that the trumped-up case of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against her be dismissed, and that she be released from detention. They also sought the quashal of the search warrants used in the raids and the suppression of evidence that were allegedly seized during the raid.

The police claimed they found guns, ammunition and explosives in Lanzanas’ house, which led to her arrest. The search warrants against her were issued by Manila RTC 3rd Vice Executive Judge Jason Zapanta. In the motion, Lanzanas’ counsels asserted that “the subject search warrants were issued in error and in grievous violation of her constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure” as they pointed out the many irregularities and lies that make the search warrants erroneous.

Lanzanas’ counsels stated that it was only when she was able to look into the records of the search warrants that “she was able to confirm her conviction that the police incriminated her in trumped-up crimes using a planted informant and fabricated evidence” as the warrant bore a different address. The affidavits of the warrant’s informants also revealed that dates, names, and other information significant to establishing probable cause to the search warrant were erroneous and inconsistent.

“On the sheer basis of an unverified information from an alleged informant, unsupported by any overt circumstance showing the commission of a crime, the police were given license to intrude upon the movant’s home and violate her basic right to security, privacy and personal liberty,” the motion averred, as they asserted that “evidence obtained in violation of the right against unreasonable searches and seizures shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.”

“Such blatant fabrications are not innocent mistakes or negligent omissions due to a faulty recollection. It is easy to point out the lies when it is confronted with hard truths — and the supposed truth that was peddled by the police and their informants to unleash these deadly raids are clearly garbage and pure hogwash. They clearly do not merit any probable cause for the search and arrest of Lanzanas,” Palabay said.

The motion also argued that it was “grievous error for Judge Zapanta to have found probable cause” in the police’s application of the warrant, “notwithstanding this display of gross insensibility between truth and falsehood on the part of the applicant (search warrant) and his witnesses” for “[t]he lack of probable cause is further evident from the failure of the police to present evidence of any circumstance that would arouse suspicion against the movant (Lanzanas).”

“The search warrants used in the Bloody Sunday raids were based on lies. More importantly, it only shows in clear and unmistakable detail how State forces corrupt, manipulate, and weaponize the justice system to carry out their bloody counterinsurgency campaigns and its brutal war on dissent,” Palabay further stated, as she reiterated that there should be accountability on the injustices against Lanzanas that she endured in the many days following the Bloody Sunday raids.

“We hope that Lanzanas be released, and that justice be served to her wrongful arrest and detention. At the same time, we continue to call for justice for the victims of Bloody Sunday incidents. Duterte’s fascist mercenaries may continue to enjoy weaponizing the law to suppress dissent and violate basic rights of people. However, there is an end to these injustices and certainly, the days of those who have wronged the people are numbered,” the Karapatan official ended.